A major project is being launched by Bradford Estates this summer to restore a historic and elaborate water system to its original condition, to address localised flooding issues and to take action to ensure the future of an important woodland.
The work is on the Shropshire/Staffordshire boundary near Tong Norton and will involve dredging silted up waterways and replacing areas of diseased ash trees with new healthy resilient species as part of an ongoing sustainable forestry strategy across the estates.
Dry weather is essential for the work to begin with the normally waterlogged terrain making it inaccessible for machinery at other times of the year. An action plan is being drawn up next month with the aim of starting work in August. Viscount Alexander Newport, Managing Director of Bradford Estates, said: “It’s difficult to estimate how long the work will take to complete but we are viewing it as a multi-year project. We need to get in there, make a start, see exactly what the condition is and how much work needs doing.
“Water flows out of Weston Park into Weston Mill, an old mill pond, through two channels and is then gravity fed under a culvert into the back of Tong Norton Mere. It’s a heavily wooded area which originally incorporated a carriageway into Tong Norton Mere, which was designed by the great 18th Century designer, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
“The Mere sits on what was the Tong Castle Estate purchased by The 2nd Earl of Bradford in 1850 off the Durrant family, who were advised by ‘Capability’ Brown as far back as the 1760s. Certain features on the Tong Castle Estate are believed to date back to medieval times.
“The watercourse consists of a man-made reservoir system which has silted up. It’s causing localised flooding as it is not allowing water to flow through properly.
“To preserve this area from a heritage point of view and fix the flooding issues, forestry and excavation machinery will need to be used at the driest part of the year, as any other time would just result in equipment sinking due to the very boggy and wet conditions.”
Lord Newport said the eventual plan is to dredge the Weston Mill pond and water channels, reinstate Tong Norton Mere to its original extent and restore the 19th century oak lined carriageway access opposite Tong Lodge, but the first part of the process will be clearing Chalara Ash Dieback infected trees. “A lot of the trees we will be taking out, particularly in the Weston Mill area, are dying due to disease or overly waterlogged soils, so it’s much better to replant with healthy new resilient species on drier ground,” he added.
“This is part of the estates’ ongoing sustainable forestry strategy as part of its 100-year plan commitment to long term estate management.
“The restoration of the water system, fixing flooding issues and the extensive tree replacement programme are all essential projects that need doing. It’s a major project but one which will ultimately prove to be extremely beneficial for the local area.”